Cerebral Vasospasm: A Review

Can J Neurol Sci. 2016 Jan;43(1):15-32. doi: 10.1017/cjn.2015.288. Epub 2015 Sep 2.


Cerebral vasospasm is a prolonged but reversible narrowing of cerebral arteries beginning days after subarachnoid hemorrhage. Progression to cerebral ischemia is tied mostly to vasospasm severity, and its pathogenesis lies in artery encasement by blood clot, although the complex interactions between hematoma and surrounding structures are not fully understood. The delayed onset of vasospasm provides a potential opportunity for its prevention. It is disappointing that recent randomized, controlled trials did not demonstrate that the endothelin antagonist clazosentan, the cholesterol-lowering agent simvastatin, and the vasodilator magnesium sulfate improve patient outcome. Minimizing ischemia by avoiding inadequate blood volume and pressure, administering the calcium antagonist nimodipine, and intervention with balloon angioplasty, when necessary, constitutes current best management. Over the past two decades, our ability to manage vasospasm has led to a significant decline in patient morbidity and mortality from vasospasm, yet it still remains an important determinant of outcome after aneurysm rupture.

Keywords: cerebral ischemia; cerebral vasospasm; intracranial aneurysm; subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / diagnosis*
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / etiology*
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / prevention & control
  • Vasospasm, Intracranial / therapy*